Products of Design: Lifecycle and Flows

Happy to be at the inaugural second year for Products of Design at SVA. Following through on a promise many years ago to Allan Chochinov, I’ll be teaching Lifecycle and Flows with Rebecca Silver, and adapting a systems thinking approach to product backstories.

Lifecycle and Flows will expose students to the hidden forces behind how consumer objects are made. Systems Thinking, Life Cycle Analysis, and Stakeholder Management Theory will be used as frameworks for understanding the industrial process. Deeper exploration of Life Cycle Analysis will expose students to the ecological, social, and financial impact of a consumer product across the full product lifecycle. Students will gain skills in critical analysis, business logic, design research, and thing-making consciousness.

I was obsessed with product backstories and  book years ago when I left frog design to do my own innovation consulting work, and taught a class on backstories at ITP for a number of years inspired by Bruce Sterling’s Shaping Things. I’m thoroughly foregrounded in health, tech, and open data, and will have a point of convergence in this course as a few of the students will be hacking, deconstructing, and thoroughly investigating the product history of health and wellness tracking devices. These days, we are badass, putting sensors into EVERYTHING. What would be superbadass: understanding the human and environmental impact of sensors, everywhere, and tasking these sensors with telling the whole truth.


NYU ITP Bodies and Buildings Class 7

Bodies and Buildings: April 8

The mindset or paradigm out of which the system – its goals, power structure, rules, its culture-arises.

Reading for next week:

Pick any of these architectural “facsicles” – they are delicious.

Assignment for next week to prepare for final concept presentation:

Concept source and exploration:

What part of the system of how we care for bodies, or how we make and maintain our buildings, interests you the most?

What are the anomalies and failures that irk you?

What possibilities do you see?

NYU ITP Bodies and Buildings Class 6

Most of the technological interventions in the global environment have focused on the supply side:

The availability of land (conservation)

The availability of fuel (gas crises, investment in clean tech)

The availability of greener products with greener materials (green product development/greenwashing)

In this class we focus on the demand side – making buildings so that they demand less from the earth. But to understand the context, we need to know our recent history.



Understanding Citizen Science:

Pages 1-23.



Calculate your carbon footprint.

1. Calculate the carbon footprint of your country:

2. Find a personal carbon footprint calculator that you trust. Prepare a one page/slide view of your footprint. Why did you choose this particular calculator. What were the inputs. What did you learn.

NYU ITP Bodies and Buildings Class 4

To prepare for next week’s assignment, read:
Protecting Patient Privacy: Strategies For Regulating Electronic Health Records Exchange NYCLU, read Part 2 and Conclusion



Rekindling the Patient Privacy Debate.
When Patients Tell Their Stories, Their Health May Improve.
Wit. By Margaret Edson. Dramatists Play Service, Inc., Mar 1, 1999.

Prepare a written and spoken argument (2 pages, 5 minutes) clearly outlining your position on the topic of open data and patient empowerment. Do you feel that patients should own their own data? Do you feel that people should be uniquely identified in an electronic health system? What are the for and arguments against?

This is taken from the Op-Ed structure. (From the Op-Ed Project)


1. Introduce from the context of the current discussion (LEDE)
2. State your thesis argument – what do you believe
3. Provide three relevant examples proving your point (evidence point one, evidence point two, then conclusion)
4. “To be sure” Provide the counterpoint, then argue against the counterpoint.
5. Conclude with a recommended action.

NYU ITP: Bodies and Buildings, Class 3

Class assignment for 2/25/2013

Read:  The quantified self, Counting every moment. The Economist, March 3, 2012.
Additional videos from Todd Park

Social fMRI: Investigating and shaping social mechanisms in the real world. Nadav Aharonya, Wei Pana, Cory Ipa, Inas Khayala,b, Alex Pentlanda. Persuasive and Mobile Computing. Vol 7, 2011, 643-659.
Chapter 6: Patient Facing Software


Write a one page essay to be presented in class. Do you find the quantified self movement appealing? Give examples of how you would imagine using data to monitor your own health, or the health of someone you care for.

You will be asked to present your work, so practice rehearsing your in class presentation at least two times.

NYU ITP Bodies and Buildings Class 2

Systems Thinking and The Obesity Epidemic


Class assignment for 2/11/2013
Read: Networked Medicine: From Obesity to the “Diseasome”. Editorial by Albert-László Barabási, Ph.D. NEJM. July 26,2007.


Deeper Reading:

Original Study by Christakis and Fowler: The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years. NEJM. July 26, 2007.

Critique of this study: Lyons.

The Spread of Evidence-Poor Medicine via Flawed Social-Network Analysis. Statistics, Politics, and Policy: (2011) Vol. 2 : Iss. 1, Article 2. Last revised 5 May 2011

Watch: Catherine Kerr on Cortical Measures in Mindfulness Meditation at Quantified Self.

Personal account of Weight Watchers by Laura Beck at Jezebel.


When developing ideas and concepts for our student projects, and future projects, business ideas, and save-the-world ideas, we often start by designing for ourselves.

For this assignment, research a part of the world at a local level (city, state, province, county) that has a problem with obesity. The only requirement: pick somewhere that you have never been.

In a one page essay, describe the social, cultural, technological, economic, and other conditions of this region that may be contributing to a growth in the prevalence of obesity.  You may choose to write a non-fiction account or take this as a creative writing assignment – imagining a first person day-in-the-life account of what it feels like to live here.


You will be asked to present your work, so practice rehearsing your in class presentation at least two times.

NYU ITP: Bodies and Buildings Intro Class

Class Start and Intro to Systems Thinking, Bodies, and Buildings.

Class assignment for 2/4/2013


Read ALL OF Donella Meadows:

Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System

Take leverage points 9, 8, 7.

Write a 1 page or 500-6000 word essay on the following topic:

How do mobile apps try to affect leverage points 9, 8, and 7.

9- The length of delays, relative to the rate of system change

8- The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to impacts they are trying to correct against

7- The gain around driving positive feedback loops

Give one example and explain how the app is or is not designed to affect each of these leverage points. How effective do you think this app will be at changing behavior?

You will be asked to present your work, so practice rehearsing your in class presentation at least two times.